The Mind’s Eye: Finding the Inner Beauty

Strive not to be a success, but rather to be of value~ Albert Einstein

I confess: I put that quote first because I thought it would grab more attention! I also think he’s right.  Success is pretty relative.  Sometimes just finishing the race is a win, even if we come in 423rd.   The key is to be the judge of your own success instead of your own worst enemy.

It sounds a little simplistic, but the simple things are the hardest things more often than not.  People talk about “loving yourself” and we roll our eyes and yawn.  Yeah, yeah, yeah. But think of how we talk to ourselves; remember the last time we went on a binge?  How did we handle that little mess?  I’m betting there were a lot of recriminations, a lot of self-abuse.  I read comments my fitness friends post and sometimes it’s more than a little scary.  They say things like “I’m so disgusting! How can anyone love me?” “I look like a monster!” “I’m so fat, I’m a freak!” “I’m so ugly!” They are ashamed of themselves because they think they are failures.  They aren’t pretty enough; they aren’t thin enough! The standards of health and beauty set by someone else have become their own, and they are beating themselves to death with these impossible standards! “Love sees not with the eyes but with the mind/ therefore is wing’d Cupid painted blind.” Good ol’ Bill the Bard goes on to make Titania a laughingstock for falling in love with the donkey-headed Bottom, but the truth of the matter remains unaltered: love sees with the mind, not with the eyes.  When I was in high school (boy, does this date me!) Risky Business came out in theaters, and all the girls in my class were ga-ga over Tom Cruise. He’s a decent actor, but as far as “being cute,” he’s not my type! He’s pretty, and “pretty” doesn’t appeal to me (Now Russell Crowe is a totally different story!) Does most of the world think he’s a handsome guy? Maybe.  I can think of a few who don’t.

Everyone has different standards for beauty, for health, for athleticism, and somehow, we’ve managed to sign up for standards that are impossible to achieve.  I’m not saying we need to lower the bar, but we need to stop measuring our beauty and athleticism (or any quality) against people like Beyonce, Chris Hemsworth, Michael Phelps and Venus Williams.  Not to knock these guys, but the world would be kind of boring if everyone were like them! (Good looking and healthy, but still really boring!) This is where Albert’s quote earns its keep here today: value is subjective! You can be a world class nuclear physicist, but if you can’t change the tire on your car, you’re not doing yourself a lot of good, are you? Of course a mechanic may not be the best person to explain what radioactive isotopes are and why they are important either (frankly, I have no idea!).

We all have value but somehow, many of us get stuck looking at ourselves as though the only thing that matters is measuring up to this unreachable standard.  When we look in the mirror, we don’t see us: we see something that needs to be fixed! We see something defective and undesirable.  We all remember the adage: “one man’s junk is another man’s treasure,” and how true that is! For example: my cockapoo was the leftover from his litter.  When I saw his pic online, all I saw was the cutest little thing and I could not wait to get him!  I showed his pic to a coworker of mine who’s had cockapoos, and his reaction was “oh, …..it’s a boy?….and he’s all black?” Yep! Completely black! My family teases me sometimes by asking “where’s his eyes? How can you tell which direction he’s looking?” And yes, his first few pics at home were just big black blobs! He was still at the breeder because no one else wanted him but I wouldn’t trade him for anything! When I saw him, my first thought “he’s so cute!!” I wasn’t thinking  about how he was completely black from nose to tail, or that he was male (frankly, I like boy dogs): all I saw was an adorable little pup.  It’s the same with my cats; they have all been “defective rejects/ returns” for one or another reason.  One (Yzma) is a tortoise shell who wasn’t “pretty enough”; another (Belle) actually lost a back leg to an accident as a kitten; and the newest (Ursula) is an all black kitten whose “fur is too long” (whatever that means!) When I got Ursula, there was a mix up and the kitten I was supposed to take home had been given to someone else, and I told her mom’s owner that my primary criteria was her temperament: I just wanted a kitten who would get along with Remy (my “defective” cockapoo).  I don’t particularly care what she looks like (my first pick had been gray). All of them are sweet mellow creatures who love to play, be held and get along with each other most of the time. That was all I was looking for and their “hair shall be of what colour it please God!”

This last quote (Much Ado About Nothing) is another good example.  Claudio falls in love immediately with Hero and Benedick criticizes his choice, calling her “Leonato’s short daughter” saying that Beatrice, although a shrew, is a much better choice. Later in the play, in the soliloquy where the above quote appears, Benedick enumerates the traits he wants in a wife, and looks are not tops on the list.  I am the first to admit that I am not mainstream: I’m short, obese, and wear glasses.I’m also terribly opinionated and not shy about sharing my opinions.  (The technical term is “b*itch.”) I make no apologies- life is too short to spend it living up to someone else’s standards.  I once dated a guy in college who ended our relationship when he realized I was smarter than he was.  I was tutoring him in English and I’ve met rocks who are sharper than he was when it came to poetry! I’m not going to apologize for being smart or educated, but as far as he was concerned, I was an “uppity smart-a$$ b*tch.”  His response was to make me feel as ugly and worthless as possible.  For awhile, it worked and then I realized the only way he could make himself feel smarter was to make me feel worthless and that was the end of those tears!

I used to be very hard on myself because I didn’t fit the mainstream ideal of what a woman should be.  I didn’t “act right” and I sure didn’t look “right.” I’ve had other guys tell me that my “girlish, feminine qualities” are lacking! Frankly, I’ve never been “delicate and feminine.”(I remember watching the old Flash Gordon serials as a ten year old and getting really irritated at Dale “Scream and Faint” Arden.) As for my appearance, other than losing weight and wearing contacts (yuck!), I am always going to be short.  I could dye my hair, wear the itchy contacts (preferably blue or green colored), lose a lot of weight and act like a demure brainless coquette, and then I would have all the guys I wanted! Wow! All I would have to do to get “society’s” approval is to become a totally different person! I just have to not be me! That would also mean keeping my mouth shut and we all know that ain’t gonna happen without a stapler!

Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind~ Dr. Seuss

This is one of the reasons I think kids need to read a lot of Dr. Seuss.  The linguistic acrobatics aside, there is a great deal of wisdom in his writings.  When I said what I thought to that rock-headed dolt of a boyfriend, he went from the “those who matter” category to the “those who mind don’t matter” category. The ones who love you for your true value will always love you for being your true self. When you look in the mirror, you need to see beyond the surface, because ultimately beauty fades, muscles grow weak, and hair goes gray (if it stays at all), but the soul inside will only grow stronger.  That is the true beauty and value of a person.  Being short, fat, tall, bony, bald, beautiful, whatever- all of this is changeable and temporary at best! If you try all your life and are never thin, the people who truly love you will still love you.  You need to be one of those people!

 

 

 

Help Yourself! Helplessness is Learned

Some of you know that I’m addicted to My 600 lb Life on TLC.  I joke with my friends that it’s my version of a 12 step program, and really it is.  Watching this show, and others like it, are just one of the things that keep me focused on my lifestyle goals.  It reminds me of where I started, where I’m going and where I am now.

One of the things I’ve seen over and over again with the patients on this show is the idea that they are helpless.  Somehow, they learned to be helpless when it comes to food, to helping themselves or making positive changes and they stop right there.  It’s like they were walking down a street and hit a ‘sidewalk closed’ sign and they don’t have the sense to go around it.  They are there waiting for someone to remove the sign.  On My 600 lb Life, the sign is their weight and the man removing the sign is Dr. Nowzaradan (Dr. Now).  Many of these patients can barely walk, some of them are confined to a bed because they can’t, and they bemoan their situation: how much they hurt, how helpless they are and how they need other people to take care of them.  With many of them, it’s how helpless they are in the face of their food addiction.

If it sounds like I don’t have a lot of patience for them, you’re not wrong.  One of the reasons this show literally speaks to me is because the threshold to audition for the show is 500 lbs.  At my heaviest, I was 438 and definitely in the neighborhood! I had trouble walking long distances and standing for any length of time.  It was seriously affecting my health and I had so many of the crappy eating habits you see with the patients on the show: too many sweets, too much fast food, not enough exercise or activity, and just too much cheap processed unhealthy food!  I’ve been right there with them. I also had my excuses for not exercising, eating healthier or losing weight.  Heard them all- said them all! “If I lose weight, I’ll have to have skin surgery and I don’t want that!” (That one is one of my favorites!); “I don’t have time to exercise/ cook real food/ buy healthy groceries!”; “It hurts to exercise!”; “I’ve tried losing weight and it’s too expensive/ hard/ whatever!” etc, etc, ad infinitum.

I’ll also admit that I stumbled into long term weight loss.  I made one change and began losing weight, and I managed to keep it going.  These patients may not have had the same lucky break that I did before they see Dr. Now for the first time, but when they get there, their mindset really doesn’t change.  For those of you who have not seen the show, Dr. Now is a bariatric surgeon and these patients are seeing him because he performs gastric bypass surgery on patients over 600 lbs.  Most doctors won’t do it on patients that size and so when these people go to see him, they almost all say: “he’s my last chance.” When they do meet with him, he tells them that the surgery is only one part of the weight loss; they must follow the diet or the surgery will be of no benefit to them, and he nearly always sends them home with the high protein, low carb diet to lose between 20-50 pounds over the next month or so to prove to him that they can make the necessary changes to qualify for the surgery.  For more than half these patients, they walk out of his office, commenting how they don’t know if they can do this, because they never tried to lose weight before! He’s not the last in a long line of weight loss attempts- he’s the only attempt! They have never tried to help themselves before this point.

Many of them struggle with the diet, fighting the cravings and some of them- no surprise- cheat (I’ve never met a dieter who didn’t cheat and that includes me!); despite all their fears about dying because they are “so big,” they still eat the foods that have brought them to the brink of death.  This is no exaggeration: one patient was over 1,000 lbs, had been told by Dr. Now that he was on literally on the brink of death and still cheated.  Many of them have heart problems or are simply too big for even Dr. Now to risk surgery, so he has them lose enough weight so he can do the surgery.  You would think this would be encouraging to many of them, but this is again, where this idea of helplessness comes in: “(angrily) I don’t know why he just won’t give me the surgery!” “If he doesn’t give me this surgery, I’m going to die!” Many of these patients have lost between 20- 60 lbs just by following the diet and they are so upset that he’s not going “give them the surgery” so they can lose weight! I’ve only seen one patient who, after losing 65 lbs, was sent home to lose more before surgery to reduce the risk to her heart, and did not moan about how unfair this was.  Her reaction was “if I don’t have the surgery, I’ve already lost 65 lbs, so I’ll just stick with the diet.” I have to say that she was unique in her attitude of being proactive.  This is the reason I remember her so clearly: all of the other patients chose not to help themselves and looked to others to do things for them.  It was most pronounced in one patient the doctor actually fired because she would not stand up.  I don’t mean “stand up for herself;” I mean she refused to stand up out of her wheelchair, gurney or bed! It hurt and she wasn’t going to do it.  She would not walk; she would not stand up; she would not try to do any kind of activity at all.  Then she had the gall to accuse him of being unfair to her.  This patient was a little extreme to be sure, but this is typical of the attitude of many of these patients: they cannot or will not help themselves, so they are dependent on someone else doing it for them.

Instant Gratification Takes Too Long

So why am I picking on these people? Because this is where a lot of us are when we go to lose weight (or anything else that’s hard).  We are stuck on that sidewalk, looking at the sign blocking our way, and don’t have the sense to go around it.  We aren’t “proactive problem solvers”- we’re the “callers for help.” We’ve gotten used to other people (or technology) doing things for us and we forget or don’t want to do things for ourselves.  I remember one episode of the show Fraser, where the tv remote broke and his dad kept trying to come up with gizmos (like a long string of taped together chopsticks) so he wouldn’t have to get up and change the channel.. Fraser asked him what he did before they invented remotes and Martin’s waspish retort:”It was hell!” We are like Martin: we don’t want to get up to change the channel; we don’t want to stand at the stove and cook; we don’t want to walk through the grocery store; we don’t even want to walk into the fast food place- we do the drive-thru!

So by extrapolation, why should we work to lose weight when we can have a surgery to do it for us? Why should we try to figure out this problem when we can simply have “a procedure” and it’s done for us! This is how we got so overweight as a society and why losing the weight is so hard: it’s work, and it’s hard work to boot! We don’t want to work; we don’t want to have to figure it out; we don’t want to have to wait to lose the pounds.  We want it all and we want it NOW!! Since we can’t find the easy instant weight loss solution, we are stuck there looking at the sidewalk closed sign and don’t know how to get around it or move it ourselves.  This is what makes me so angry: helplessness is learned! It is a choice!

We taught ourselves to be helpless and let others assist in that teaching.  Instead of getting up and doing for ourselves, over time, we have let others people do for us and eventually, we have forgotten not only how to do things for ourselves, but how to even begin to help ourselves.  I remember when I first started college and was in the computer lab working on papers.  When I started there, I didn’t know crap about computers and if I couldn’t figure out how to do something, I had to ask the lab assistant (the geek the school paid to play games and assist us flounderers).  But I hated asking for help, so when he or she came to take care of my problem, I insisted they show me how to do it.  Their first inclination was always to do it for me because it was faster than actually explaining it so I always told them “show me so I don’t have to bother you again” and they jumped on that (more time for games!).  I remember one time, the laser printer died and they had to switch everyone over to the inkjet, and I watched how he did it, so at the end of term weeks later, when the line for the laser jet was 11 people deep, I switched my computer over to the inkjet sitting there idle and got my paper printed in 5 minutes.  Everyone in line for the laser printer was aghast: “how did you do that?!” It’s that old adage: “give a man a fish and he eats for a day; teach him to fish and he eats for a lifetime.” I’d like to say it’s a noble and high-minded attitude that makes me this way, but the truth of the matter is I just hate asking for help. For me, being helpless is excruciating! I was bedridden once with a broken arm and leg for nearly three months and it was a horrible experience.  The thought of being bedridden for years on end due to my weight is truly insane.

This is what our culture teaches us: ask for help and have someone else do it for you.  It wasn’t always a bad thing.  As the technology grew, we needed someone to help us learn how to operate it, but somewhere along the line it followed the same route as the college lab assistants: it’s faster for me to do it for you than to teach you how to do it, and eventually, it became the job of assistants and customer support techs to stop teaching and keep doing it for us.  But now this learned helplessness is killing us by making us lazy, making us fat, making up stupid.

We don’t get up and move anymore, because cooking takes three minutes in the microwave or we get drive-thru or delivery or go out to eat.  So we just sit there and someone feeds us, usually processed food and way too much of it! We eat what is easy and simple and convenient, instead of choosing food that actually takes a little a work to procure and prepare.  Why cut up and prepare a whole chicken when we can get something we just have to heat up? Why peel and boil and mash the potatoes when we can buy the potato flakes or frozen mashed potatoes?  The poor eating habits are bad enough but it’s also making us stupid. I recall watching an episode of Hell’s Kitchen where the “chef” contestants had actually had to cut up a chicken into 8 pieces, something I learned to do at 12, and more than half of them either didn’t know how to do it or did it badly. We are not learning how to take care of ourselves and since we don’t know how to do it, we cannot teach it to the younger generations.

Choose Life

There are two things the patients on My 600 lb Life almost always say that make me absolutely crazy-mad. One of them is “I never tried to lose weight/ diet before!” and the other is “I’m getting my life back!” What is so maddening about the first statement is what I’ve been talking about: they had never tried to help themselves before. They talk about their journey to 500 or 600 lbs or more, talking about continually gaining weight through childhood, adolescence, adulthood, until one day, their legs just couldn’t hold them anymore and now they were stuck in the bed! To me, common sense would dictate that when it hurts to walk, or you have to sleep with a CPAP because your body weight will smother you, you would begin to make some changes in your lifestyle.  But these people didn’t and I think this goes back to the learned helplessness. They don’t know how to take action to help themselves, and when other people try to help them, they don’t know how to accept the help or how to put it into action. They are stuck in a holding pattern, getting sicker and sicker, waiting for someone to fix their lives and tell them how to live their lives.  It is really very sad, but it is a choice!

That is what is so infuriating about the second statement: they chose to give up their lives.  They chose food and helplessness over actually living.  Rather than choosing to act for themselves, they chose to sit in bed or the sofa or wherever and be helpless. You can choose to sit there, or you can choose to do something- anything.  It’s very simple to choose to lose weight: choose not to eat the mashed potatoes or the fries or the chips- whatever!  The choice is simple, but the execution can be hard. Try to leave them there, and the more times you can, the easier it gets, especially when you begin to notice the positive changes in your health.  That’s really how it worked for me; I chose not to eat the fast food anymore, and the more times I chose something else, the easier it got and the more weight I lost, the better I felt and the easier it became to choose the healthier option.  It was not always easy, but it was always my choice.  I chose to take action to help myself.  There were days that I hated it, but it is my life.  I never want to sit helpless.  I could never choose to give my away my life.

In a Rut or In the Groove?

I have a confession to make: I get a little nervous when people tell me I inspire them with my weight loss, either because I have been at it for this long, because I’ve lost the weight that I have, or because I’ve made so many changes in my lifestyle.  I started losing weight (officially) in January 2015; I’ve lost 155 lbs, and in addition to adding in a regular weekly exercise routine, I’ve changed to a Paleo lifestyle. It is kind of a lot of changes, but I made them slowly over time, which is one of the reasons I didn’t just give up right away.  Believe me, if I had to do it all at once, I’d’ve run screaming down the street!

Some of my MFP fitness friends congratulate me on staying with my weight loss and not giving up, but here’s another confession: it’s pretty easy for me now.  Some of you have probably heard me say that I’m too stupidly stubborn to give up or that changing back to my old habits would be harder or more work than continuing to stick with it.  I’m really not joking.  I’m one of those people who lives and dies by her routine.  The old joke “if it’s Monday, it must be meatloaf” really applies to me.  People can pretty much set their clocks and calendars by me: I do the same things the same way pretty much every time. It makes it easier for me (and my dog too).  On one level, there’s not too much rescheduling there, but hey, I can be flexible when I have to be! This routine is not because I lack innovation- it’s because I know myself pretty well.  If there is a secret to my weight loss, that’s it.  I know how I will try to get out of everything I can and will use the smallest deviation from the norm to go off the rails, so in effect, by adding my healthy lifestyle changes to my routine in stages, I’ve sabotaged myself into not having any “outs.”

I buy pretty much the same kinds of groceries every week, which no longer includes some of the snacky processed foods I used to love, so all my eating choices are healthy.  I do my shopping on the weekends and my meal planning so come Monday morning, all of my lunches and to-go breakfasts are set up so all I have to do is stick them in my lunch bag and go.  When I get home, I know pretty much what I’m having for dinner because it’s already there; I just need to fix it. Before I go to bed that night, I set out what I’m going to wear the next day and if it’s a work out day, I pack my gym bag. (Damn, I’m boring!!)  This sets me up for no excuses, such as “I’m running late- there’s no time to pack my gym bag/ make my lunch/  breakfast.” I have no excuse for not going to the gym or for hitting a drive-thru for breakfast or lunch.  Even if I do forget my lunch, I keep nuts at the office, so I can have those instead of fast food.  Forgetting my gym bag is a little more problematic: it usually means I have to pick it up at home before hitting the gym.  (That gets me in trouble with the pup!) Having the groceries at home gives me no excuse for the drive-thru either (although these days drive-thru is usually salad and grilled chicken). It allows me to function on auto-pilot without going off the rails; because I made the changes in stages until they became my new defaults.  The default dinner now is lean protein and salad/ vegetables.  The default Saturday breakfast is eggs and bacon/ sausage (the emergency “I forgot the eggs/ bacon/ sausage” breakfast is kippers!) Workday breakfast is either cheesesticks, sausage or nuts.  Granted, a lot of what I eat these days isn’t the norm, but I like it and it works for me and that’s pretty much what matters.  I suppose I could be more ‘normal’ and have a breakfast sandwich, but I have never really been a fan of those and still don’t like them.

That is pretty much the secret to my success: I changed my behavior to incorporate healthy patterns and choices.  In realspeak: I just stuck myself in a healthier rut. The best advice I can give anyone who wants to make healthier lifestyle changes is to know yourself first.  If you know how you will behave in a given situation, you can set yourself up for the better choices/ actions you want to start including.  Those of you who are married or have kids know this little trick: instead of asking “what do you want for dinner?,” you ask “do you want spaghetti or do you want hamburgers?” You just learn to do the same thing for yourself.  One of the things I did to set myself up for a better choice is to stop going to a certain grocery store because they have a fabulous bakery and I was always tempted to get cake.  By going to a store that didn’t have such great cake, I wasn’t tempted and didn’t come home with cake.  Another change: if I felt I had to get takeout, instead of getting the burger, fries and jalapeno poppers, I get grilled chicken and veggies.  Still takeout, but it’s healthier.  If I feel the urge to snack at home, I have things that are healthier (nuts, kippers, fresh fruit, etc) and some of them require a little prep, so I’m less inclined to snack, but even if I do, it’s not chips or junk food.  It takes a little work over a long period of time, but that’s another key ingredient: don’t be in a hurry.  You want to make lifelong changes that really stick with you and become your new defaults.  That’s how you make permanent changes and progress.

Going back to my old habits would be too much work for me. It would mean changing my routine and frankly, it’s kind of a headache.  It would mean more running around, less time with the pets, less time doing the things I like doing, and what would be the ultimate result? Gaining weight, feeling tired and cruddy, clothes getting tighter and uncomfortable, more aches and pains and health issues.  Been there- done with that! I wouldn’t say I’m stuck in a rut- I’d say I’m in the groove!

 

The Speck in Your Sister’s Eye (versus the Plank in Your Own!)

There’s been a bit of a flurry in the media about this and, what the heck- I’m going to jump in too! As some of you know, I’m a TLC addict and have been watching My Big Fat Fabulous Life this season. There are some things that Whitney says and does that I really don’t agree with, mainly because I think she can do better, but one thing that I completely agree with is her “no body shame” message.  Ultimately, how you choose to live your life is up to you and you should be proud of yourself and love yourself regardless of what other people think! Personally, I always think there is room for improvement with me, but that’s me! I cannot and will not decide other people’s lives.

To recap the episode in question: comedian Kerryn Feehan was appearing on the radio show that Whitney works for and Ms. Feehan made a point of remarking how “we coddle people with food addictions,” and went on to make a few disparaging remarks about overweight people, including how “bullying” would be good for them.  When one of the show’s hosts, Roy, who is a “bigger guy,” asked if she meant that bullying him would be good for him, she said yes.  The look on this guy’s face simply said “I can’t believe she is saying this to my face.” Whitney told Kerryn that she was assuming that all overweight people had food addictions, and making other unwarranted assumptions, to which Kerryn replied that if Whitney were honest with herself she would admit that she had a food addiction and was unhappy with her life.  Later on, Roy gave Whitney tickets to Kerryn’s show, and in the interest of fairness, Whitney and her roommate Buddy showed up to hear Kerryn make a few more other generally negative comments about overweight people and Whitney, although she didn’t mention her by name.  After the show, they had another “discussion,” which kind of turned into a shouting match. Kerryn (who is also a smoker) revealed in her show that she is an alcoholic (about 1 year sober at the time) and had lost loved ones to problems related to obesity.

I think I can see part of the problem already! I think Kerryn genuinely was trying to help Whitney, but I think she’s doing it in a remarkably unhelpful way.  A lot of times people who are newly recovering from their own addictions try to force recovery on others, whether they actually have an addiction or not.  I don’t think my problems with food actually qualified as an addiction.  I think it was a coping mechanism that I abused but as far as an actual addiction, I don’t think so.  I’m not sure Whitney’s problem with food is an addiction either, but admittedly, I don’t know enough about her eating habits to make any kind of assumption. And therein lies the problem: Kerryn barely even knows Whitney but apparently feels qualified to make blanket assumptions about her life and the lives of everyone who is overweight.  I think she wants to help, but I think her method, aside from actually hurting the ones she wants to help, only incites anger and shame, not a desire to change.

While I am not an alcoholic, I have family members who are.  I have also lost loved ones to obesity and body shame.  One of my cousins was 600 lbs and actually died during gastric bypass surgery.  I lost an aunt to complications from the same surgery.  She was barely 200 lbs at the time of the surgery but was embarrassed by “being fat” so she had the surgery even though everyone in the family thought she didn’t need it.Essentially, attitudes and behaviors like Kerryn’s cost my aunt her life.  I suppose under Kerryn’s philosophy of “bullying for positive change in others,” I can send her an email letting her know that a lifetime of bullying by others ended up with my aunt losing her life trying to live up to society’s standards, and incidentally, it killed a friend of mine from high school as well who also died from complications from the same surgery. And, while I’m at it, I can let Kerryn know that I don’t appreciate having to breathe in her second hand smoke and she’s going to die from the cigarettes. I really don’t think that would spur Kerryn to make any positive lifestyle changes, do you?  (FYI: my best friend is a smoker, so I’m really not all hot about the topic like some people can be!)

All of that is just hurtful and not helpful and it would involve me making some unwarranted assumptions about Kerryn’s life.  I’m not going to do that.  I choose to think the best of her and from what I can gather about the ongoing media flurry, people are jumping all over her about her treatment of Whitney.  I think she was a little out of line but I think Whitney also handled the situation badly.  ( I know Buddy Expletive Deleted certainly did!) Whitney tried to change Kerryn’s mind and insisted on arguing with her.  I think both of them are so firmly entrenched in their own beliefs that it would be impossible for either of them to budge.  If Whitney felt the need to stand up against a bully (which I believe is a good thing), she would have been better served calling attention to the fact that Kerryn is not qualified to make blanket assumptions about people she doesn’t know and no one needs Kerryn’s permission to live their lives, and to leave it at that.  I suspect that Whitney is hypersensitive to bullying and fat shaming. Sadly, I am no stranger to it either.  (On one occasion, I was followed through a produce market by some jerk who kept making pig sounds. When the owner ignored his harassment of me, I left without buying anything.) I can understand Whitney’s desire to fight back and refuse to be embarrassed by how she chooses to live her life.  She needs no one’s permission to do so; neither does Kerryn, but I think both of them need to remember how easy it is to see the flaws in others and how painful it is to look for them in oneself.

The Weight Loss Secret Weapon

Everyone wants to know the secret to losing weight. There’s an entire industry built up around this and people are lining up to sell their “no-fail 100% guaranteed secret” and there more people lining up to hand them their money for it.  I’ll give you my secret for free: you deserve this.  That’s pretty much my secret.  You need to look at yourself in the mirror and tell yourself that not only do you deserve this, but you can do this without paying someone else to do it for you.  It will not always be easy or fun, but it is completely within your power and more importantly, you deserve it.

If you haven’t bugged out on my by now, let me explain that to you.  Self-worth, like love, begins in the mind.  I’m sure most of you have heard of, if not seen, the Jack Black- Gwyneth Paltrow movie Shallow Hal, about a player who falls for a fat girl not realizing she’s fat, because Tony Robbins put a “spell” on him and he can only see inner beauty.  He spends most of the movie seeing only the beautiful Gwyneth and seeing other “beautiful” girls as ugly because he is seeing their hearts and souls.  It’s a goofy movie about what real beauty is, and too often when we look at ourselves in the mirror, we do not see the true beauty and worth: we see the deformed caricature we think we are. Let me say that again because if you take nothing else from this post, you need to take this: YOU ARE INVALUABLE. You are a treasure and you need to treat yourself like the work of art that you are.

Some of you know that I am a pet parent: my dog and cats pretty much run my life and I wouldn’t have it any other way, and as such, I pay a lot of attention to pet-related stuff.  One of my favorite bumper stickers says: “One day I want to be the person my dog thinks I am.” Think about it: when I come home at the end of the day, my dog thinks it’s the greatest thing ever.  All he wants is to spend time with me (mainly so I can throw the ball for him, but whatever!) Your dog (or pet) thinks you are the greatest person ever- why don’t you think that about yourself?  Because you’re modest? Because you’re a realist? Because you know that you’re lazy, fat, and too dumb to lose weight or figure out how to get to the gym on a regular basis and have no self-control when it comes to junk food? Okay, if any of that sounded familiar to you, you are the ones that need this message the most!

Too many people tell that to themselves (whether they realize it or not) when they approach weight loss. They not only start with the negative frame of mind (“here we go again! Let’s see if I can make any headway this time!”), but they also have reservations (whether they realize it or not) about their success before they’ve even started:”I don’t know what makes me think this will work or if I’ll get any farther this time! I’ll never lose weight/ get healthy!”  A lot of this negative self-talk comes from the outside, from unrealistic expectations, and from other people’s negativity.  We hear it over and over again from the media, from family and friends and from strangers.  ‘Really, how hard is it to eat a healthy diet? Duh!’ ‘ How tough can it be to get to the gym and work out on a regular basis? Hello!’ So, when we fail to reach standards set by the outside world, we automatically think there is something wrong with us, that in some way, we must be sub-par and defective.

What the world of the media does not see is individuality.  The world of the media rarely scratches below the surface because the inside workings isn’t as glamorous or as slick as the media wants it to be; it can’t be packaged and labeled and sold in 10 seconds or less.  If it doesn’t fit in a sound byte or a web video, forget it! It’s a loser! So what we see and internalize is not only not reality, it’s been “packaged” so it’s even more fake than we already think.  It’s like the extreme super trainer let’s-lose-weight-super-quick shows: it’s an hour and fifty minutes of seeing them starve and work out and then it’s ten minutes of “ooooh! how wonderful!” and then it’s over.  We don’t see the aftermath of them living in the real world, which doesn’t have fabulous gyms with trainers at their beck & call and 8 hours of free time so they can work out all hours of the day.  It’s going to work and having to find a last minute babysitter because the kid has the flu and the dog needs to get to the groomer and we are out of groceries and toilet paper-again- and I have to work late because the project got screwed up and now I’m out of gas so I can’t even hit Wal-Mart to get the kid’s prescription! This is the world most of us live in, and it’s easy to see how your real true value gets lost in that jungle.  When you look in the mirror, you see someone without enough time in the day; someone who has too much to do and never any time for themselves, because that would be selfish with all you’ve got to do for everyone else, including the dog.  This is what makes you beautiful: because you ARE strong; because you do put other people before yourself; because you take the blame for things that didn’t get done when there isn’t enough time to do it all.  This is what makes you invaluable- because getting to the gym and eating healthy comes at the end of the list with everything else reserved for “Me.”

I got another secret for you: when you do things for yourself, you are doing things for the others in your life.  Here’s an example from my own life: when I weighed 438 lbs, got no sleep, was stressed out all the time and living on junk food, how much fun do you think I was for my dog? Do you think I had time to play with him, throw his ball, take him on play-dates, or just hold him on my lap and pet him? Oh, hell no!!! I wasn’t mean to him, but I was always too tired to play, too tired to take him to the dog park, and I always had a headache, so I was grumpy a lot, or I’d fall asleep if I sat down for five minutes and my back didn’t hurt, so there wasn’t a lot of petting and holding, and I was feeding him the same junk food I was eating!! By making time to go to the gym and get some exercise, I come home more relaxed and more energetic, and we spend quality time together.  I can take him for a walk, because I can walk now, and we enjoy the time together outside.  I can throw the ball without thinking of how tired I am, how much my back/ feet/ head hurts and when has he had enough so I can go inside? Instead of going back inside because I am tired, we go back in the house when he is worn out (but happy)! By taking the time for me, I make his life better and we both enjoy ourselves more.

“You’re braver than you believe, stronger than you seem, & smarter than you think”~ Winnie the Pooh

So what does this have to do with weight loss? Actually a lot.  When you treat weight loss / living healthy as a chore or a punishment, then you come to it with a negative “dragging your feet” mentality. When you think of it as a “fix” for what’s defective about you, then it becomes an “all or nothing” proposition.  Remember the last time you learned something for fun or enjoyment? Maybe it was a new language for a trip you were taking, or a video game or a dance.  Learning it was fun, not a “pass-fail” exam.  If you goofed up something, you gave yourself a mulligan because you were still learning and kept on learning it.  Maybe your friends or family teased you about telling the waiter you wanted the laundry instead of the sandwich on whatever trip you were on but it was still fun and you joked about it too and the waiter chuckled politely.  No one acted liked you committed a cardinal sin and now you had to wear a scarlet L for “loser.” You were learning and growing and expanding your life.  It was – and still is- good for you. This is how you need to approach weight loss and getting healthy.  How much fun was it on that trip? How much fun do you have with your family & friends when you play that video game or go out dancing with them?  This is something that improves the quality of your life and the lives of those around you.

Another example from my own life: in 2012, I went to Disneyland with a couple of my friends.  I weighed about 400 lbs then and I was miserable and embarrassed pretty much the whole time.  I couldn’t walk very far and I was too embarrassed to even try getting on some of the rides because of my size.  My friends did a lot of things on their own while I did a lot of time “holding the shopping bags.” By comparison, last Memorial Day I went to the Queen Mary with my sister and a friend, and I walked up and down that ship, pretty much hitting all the available decks, and took two separate tours.  My Fitbit recorded 5.5 miles for one day and 7.2 miles the second day.  It didn’t hurt to move and I wasn’t stiff or hobbling and we hauled our shopping around with us! In fact, our friend who was recovering from a knee injury was stopping to rest more than I needed to and I’d run off to get her a water or coffee! I was a lot more fun to be around on the Queen Mary trip than I was at Disneyland, and frankly, I was a little proud of how easily I got around.

Changing your attitude towards yourself changes how you approach everything in your life.  It’s a frame of mind, not a diet or exercise program.  Being healthy is way of life and like all lifestyle changes, it’s a series of changes made over time that have a cumulative and positive effect. It is not a “regimen” or a “boot camp” or a punishment because you screwed up your body and/ or your life. When you look in the mirror, you need to tell yourself that you are NOT a failure, no matter what you weigh or how healthy/ “unhealthy” you are; you are a strong person who deserves to be treated like the treasure you are; you deserve to be treated well and that begins now.  Carve out time for you, whether it’s shopping for healthy groceries, going to the gym or spending a few minutes of quiet “me” time.  When you make changes to prioritize yourself, you make changes that are better for you and by association, better for everyone else in your life.  No one wants to be around the kind of person I used to be because they are miserable.  When you make yourself happy, you not only make yourself healthier, you make everyone else happier and healthier too, and you set a better example to boot! (Silly old bear!)

 

Follow the Bouncing Ball: Scale Rebound

I hate when this happens! And it happens to me a lot: I go down three pounds and then up two.  Down one and a half, then up one. Over and over again! Aack!! (yeah, that’s a scream face) It’s so frustrating and I just wish it would stop, even if it means not losing weight but just holding steady! It happened again today: I’d gone down 9 lbs last week and I’m up 3 this week! Grrr!

Sadly, there is nothing anyone can do to stop this.  This is how our bodies work. Because we are always eating, drinking, moving, our weight changes not only day to day but hour to hour! Almost all of us have had the experience where we weigh first thing in the morning and then later on at the doctor or the gym, we hop on their scale and -yikes! that’s 3 pounds more than this morning! Is this thing broken?!

I wish! Unfortunately, our weight naturally fluctuates due to what we’ve eaten, what we drank, whether we’re retaining water, if we are menstruating, if we are sick, etc.  Just eating requires fluid to metabolize food, so there’s that weight! Not to mention whatever we happen to be wearing! This is why most people tend to weigh the same time of day, wearing (or not wearing) the same thing each time.  Frankly, even we are doing everything right, our weight will fluctuate but unfortunately, this is not a comforting fact to any of us! This is why a lot of weight loss experts recommend taking measurements in addition to or in place of weighing.  This is the primary reason why these same experts do not recommend “daily weigh ins!”  Weighing in daily, or even weekly, can be tremendously discouraging, especially if you hit a plateau.

It took me a long time to buy a scale.  I really thought lightning was going to strike me when I finally did, but I had reached the point where I actually wanted to know my weight and I had no scale at all in my home. For the first time in my life, getting on the scale wasn’t painful or scary or as depressing as it always had been.  At first I weighed every couple of months and it was frankly kind of exciting to see the number going down, and then I joined an MFP challenge that required weekly weigh ins, and for the first time, I began to see the scale fluctuation for myself.  It was confusing and depressing and discouraging: what am I doing wrong? Why aren’t I losing? Is this a plateau and how do I get over one? How long do they last?  Sooo. Very. Upsetting. This is why so many people quit.  This is why so many people go on a binge.  It’s very hard not to panic when you see the number not moving or worse, as in my case so often, bouncing up a few pounds! If it had not been for the support of my MFP fitness friends, I probably would have panicked and done some stupid “protein shake cleanse” or something equally hare-brained!

FYI: this is where I remind you guys that if you aren’t tracking, you should be! I don’t mean you need to count calories or weigh your food, but you do need to keep track of what you eat, a ballpark figure of how much you ate (like one hamburger patty or 3 eggs), when you ate it, what exercise you did and how you felt during the day.  For example, if you felt really sleepy after lunch or got really hungry after dinner, then that tells you how your body responded to your food.  This way, if you do end up on a plateau or you really aren’t losing weight, you can look at what isn’t working and start making changes, otherwise, it’s like trying to hit a bulls-eye in a dark room: you can’t hit the target you can’t see. If you don’t know what you’re doing wrong, you won’t know what you’re doing right either.  You don’t want to change the wrong things! Apps like My Fitness Pal let you log your food and exercise and there is a little section for Notes at the bottom of your diary so you can track things like hunger or low/ high energy.  I also use a DietMinder journal just because I like the paper kind.  If you want to know more about tracking, why you should do it and another great template, check out PrimalPotential.com.  Elizabeth Benton has some great info and some great podcasts on the topic (among other things!)

Scale rebound is normal and common and if you haven’t seen it yet, you probably will at some point.  Weight fluctuation is normal.  Our weight is not made to stay the same day after day, because our bodies are processing plants: things come in; things go out, and whenever you decide to weigh yourself, who knows what you’re still processing inside? I’ve been on this journey for about a year and a half, and I’m never happy to see the number creep down or bounce back, but I’ve learned not to panic when it’s not the number I wanted to see.

First off, I am not someone who weighs daily: I weigh no more than once a week, mainly because I am okay with whatever number pops up on there and also because now that number motivates me- whatever it is! If it’s down, then, yay!! keep going!! If it’s not, then get your butt in gear and get it lower!! It also lets me know if I’m on a plateau or if my current eating habits aren’t working for me. It keeps me in touch with my body, but I also have to accept that it’s not always going to give me the news I want to hear.

The other thing that I started doing is taking measurements.  For a long time, I held off on this, partly because I’m not the most coordinated person, and also because I knew I wasn’t going to find a measuring tape long enough.  I admit, that thought was really REALLY depressing, considering most tape measures are about five or six feet long and they still aren’t long enough to go around my hips! (Yeah, that’s a freaking scream face emoji right there!! Ugh!!) But I got one, eventually, and after a while, the tape does reach around the widest part of my body! (FINALLY! YAY!) That in itself is tremendously encouraging! Losing inches tells you that you are making progress even if your weight is not going down. How does that happen? Because, as trainers like to tell you, muscle weighs more than fat, so if you are working out, then you can be building muscle and burning fat, which weight-wise, could cancel each other out! Building muscle is good for your metabolism, since it raises your basal metabolic rate; maintaining muscle burns more calories than maintaining fat, so the more muscle you have, the higher your metabolic rate.  Think of how this might play out if you are not taking measurements: Let’s say you weigh 285 and are exercising, eating healthy and after a couple of months, you still weigh 280.  You might become discouraged and give up. “I did everything I was supposed to and I’ve only lost 5 lbs in 2 months?!” But if you were taking measurements, what you might have seen is that you lost 2 inches on your waist and 3 on your hips, which means you’ve exchanged the fat for muscle, so even though your weight looks like it hasn’t changed substantially, you’ve actually made some great progress!  This can add to the confusion and frustration because most of us would have noticed that our clothes fit differently, so “my pants are a lot looser, but I haven’t lost hardly any weight?!” It’s like looking through a keyhole- you’re only seeing a narrow part of the whole room; taking measurements actually opens the door! Yes, you are making progress, and your body is healthier for it, but if you don’t use more than one tool to measure that progress, you can set yourself up for disappointment and discouragement!

That doesn’t mean you should throw away your scale (unless you want to). It’s a tool, but like all tools, it has it’s limitations.  Measuring yourself isn’t going to tell you how much you weigh: it’s just going to show you how your body has changed.  For example, I lost more inches around my hips, waist and bust and less around my arms and legs, mainly because I’m trying to gain muscle and lose weight. So I’m losing fewer inches in certain places and more in others.  I think measuring tapes and scales are best used in conjunction with each other, but that is because it works for me.  So while my body is changing shape overall, I’m also seeing a downward trend in my weight.

Ultimately, that’s what you want with the scale: a steady downward trend, while in your measurements, you can see progress of a different kind.  The key takeaway is that you don’t only focus on one tool to measure your progress! You don’t rely on one technique for building a healthier life- it’s a combination of things, like diet and exercise, not just one or the other. So in measuring your progress, it’s best to do the same thing: use everything at your disposal!

Another key takeaway is not to be discouraged by fluctuations in your weight.  Our bodies are living organisms, not static statues.  They change as we change and change is not always a bad thing.  In fact, when I initially started losing weight, my doctor was more concerned that it was a symptom of serious illness than she was excited that I was finally dropping pounds. Losing weight rapidly is not healthy and usually not sustainable, so when your weight bounces around before finally going down and staying there, look at it as a sign of being healthy and not a sign of failure.  People keep telling me that weight loss is a journey, and sometimes there are detours.  You’ll get there eventually, so learn from the journey and try to enjoy yourself along the way!

 

 

Off the Reservation: Recovering from a Binge

It has many names: binge; indulgence; treat; cheat day; but whatever you call it, it’s the same thing: overeating.  You’ve gone and eaten something that is not in line with your goals. Whether it’s too many calories, too much sugar, too many carbs, even just too much salt or whatever, now you are off the reservation in hostile territory and you need to find your way back.  This happens to all of us (happened to me the other day and will no doubt happen again!), but this is where a lot of weight loss warriors get lost and are never seen again.  It’s like a there is a black hole where they enter in and never come out (probably stuck in there with all our missing socks!).

Humor aside, it really is a serious matter if you are trying to lose weight or eat healthier.  Those of us who wander off track usually fall victim to one of two traps (or both).  The first is the failure mindset trap and the second is the cravings trap.  There is also the consistency stumbling block that just seems to make everything so much harder even if you find your way back.

But first you have to get back to friendly territory, which means dealing with the failure mindset.  All of us have been there.  It’s not only about weight loss; this is the mindset that says you tried to do something and didn’t accomplish it.  It’s the voice in your head that says “You’re never going to be able to play Chopin’s Polonaise in front of people, so what made you think you could do it this time?” It’s the voice and way of thinking that keeps you from trying what you really want to do.  It’s the voice of fear, telling you that you are a failure, you’ll always be a failure, so don’t even try to be better at anything.

This mindset is sometimes referred to as a kind of mental quicksand, because a lot of times you don’t realize you’re stuck in it until you try to get out, and then, it seems like the more you try, the more mired you become.  You get used to the failure/ negative voice in your head telling you that you can’t do it (whatever “it” is) and so not only don’t you not attempt it, you start rationalizing why you can’t or why it’s not a good idea. Once you start listening for the voice, you begin to recognize the negative voice when you hear it.  Believe me, it may sound like a sensible friend, but it’s not. It’s like Iago, pretending to be Othello’s trusted advisor but truly his worst enemy.  (Personally, I’d love to cast someone like Michael J. Fox as Iago- someone who looks like a trusted friend instead of a creepy villainous fiend- really, who trusts someone who looks like a mugger?! But Michael J. Fox? Now there’s a trustworthy soul!) Your negative voice is the same way: it sounds like your buddy but it’s really invested in keeping you in failure territory! DON’T LISTEN TO IT!!

For me, it was the voice that said “everyone in your family has weight problems; it’s genetic, so you can’t help it and you can’t fight against it.” “You know, if you do lose all the weight, you’ll need surgery to remove all that extra skin and you’ll have scars all over your body, or worse, you won’t be able to afford/ get the surgery and then you’ll just have all that loose saggy skin! Better to be fat and not have those problems!” “You know, you’re really not that fat/ unhealthy! You can still do lots of things and a lot of guys like chubby chicks!” Yeah.  That’s the voice of my ‘friend,’ keeping me in failure territory! This is also the voice that leads you down the garden path that takes you OFF THE RESERVATION to tour this little region of purgatory! “It’s one cookie- really, are you going to be so uptight you can’t have one lousy cookie?!” “You were really good and on track all month; you deserve a piece of cake!” “All of your friends are going out to eat, and if you don’t go with them, you’ll look like you’re too good/ too uptight/ unsociable/ whatever.” This is the negative self talk that tries to keep you down, as opposed to the positive self talk that boosts your morale.

So now that you’ve learned to recognize the Iago voice when it speaks to you, you need to reply with the positive self talk that counteracts Iago’s insidious influence.  I discussed this more in depth in my post entitled It’s Me or the Cookie: I can v I can’t, so this is a little refresher course. Elizabeth Benton (PrimalPotential.com) likes to use affirmations, where you tell yourself daily how strong you are, how you can make good choices, how you can do this.  Personally, I like inspirational quotes (my personal favorite is Hannibal’s ‘I will either find a way, or make one.’) The only thing that matters is that you find a way to inspire you and use it daily and whenever the insidious negative voice starts leading you astray.  One of the biggest tip offs it’s that Iago voice talking to you: you have a discussion with yourself over it! When you’re at a restaurant and it’s between the broiled salmon and veggies or the chicken fettucine, it’s the voice that says don’t order the boring salmon. It’s the voice that reaffirms your negative feelings when you step on the scale and see you’re up a few pounds or you measure your hips and there’s no change.  When you start hearing the negative voice keeping you down and away from your goals, reply with the positive self talk that boosts your confidence and reminds you that you are stronger than you know (because you are!).  If that means keeping little notes in your pocket, purse or phone, do it! (I have post-its all over my cubicle at work and on the fridge at home!)

So now that you’re out of the failure mindset trap, there’s the cravings trap to beat! Some of us are lucky and we don’t fall into this trap too often, and sometimes, just when you think you’re out, it goes off and BAM! there you are, wanting an apple fritter (or the chocolate crossaint your cubicle neighbor is talking about)! The cravings trap comes from going off the rez and eating something that wasn’t on your plan: the carbs, the sugar, the sodium, or just too much! So you ate it… sigh. And now you want more of it, even though you weren’t happy with yourself for doing it and you’ve gotten away from the negative voice beating you up for doing it, but your body is telling you it wants more of what you just had.  A big part of that is biology: carbs and sugar send your blood sugar on a wild ride, going from extremely high extremely fast to extremely low.  You all know the sugar crash that comes after you’ve binged on a whole box of Red Vines, and when that happens, your body is telling you to raise your blood sugar out of the basement by eating something and it knows that sugar and carbs (usually refined carbs like donuts!) is the quickest way to do that.  So, it’s not uncommon after a binge that skyrockets your blood sugar for your body to start craving more of the same.  FYI: it doesn’t have to be the “bad stuff” like carbs and sugars that send your blood sugar out of control- just eating too much can have the same effect.  This one usually manifests as just being plain hungry after you’ve eaten too much.  This is another place where weight loss warriors are never seen again because cravings are so not easy to get over.  They get tired of fighting them day after day, especially it they are around the food they crave a lot. It gets hard when you see it, smell it and see other people enjoying it and you know that it’s not in line with your plan.  If you’ve gotten out of this trap before, you know the way out: DON’T EAT IT! Way easier said than done!  This is where you have to hang on until the ride ends, because that’s the secret: IT DOES END! When you stop eating sugar/ carbs/ salt/ whatever, eventually your body stops asking for it.  I never thought I would get over my craving for pasta.  Those of you who know me know that before I went Paleo, probably two-thirds or more of my diet was some form of pasta.  The rest was pretty much bread- really wish I were kidding here! Those two forms of simple carbs kept me in the cravings trap for months! I’d hang out with my friends who loved bread and pasta; I’d go out with my family: more bread and pasta; even the dang commercials on tv: come get our free delicious dinner rolls and take more home with you! I was dying for pasta and bread! So I white-knuckled it; hung tough; went cold turkey- choose your metaphor! I stopped eating it and refused to go back!  I was stubborn and refused to give into it, and eventually, I was out with my family one day and the waitress puts the bread basket on the table and……. I didn’t want any! I didn’t have to fight with myself either.  I just didn’t want the bread and I realized I’d been walking past the pasta aisle in the stores without looking longingly at the boxes & bags of it.  I’d gotten used to not eating the pasta and bread and stopped wanting it. Talk about an epiphany!

The other benefit to getting out of the cravings trap is that the farther away you get from whatever it is you’re craving, the more you lose your taste for it.  I know from my own experience, after I have not had something I used to love for a long time (and ‘long’ is relative too!), if I do have it again, it just doesn’t taste as good.  For example, there is an Italian restaurant that makes the best garlic bread, and I used to love it so much! But, I generally only get to that restaurant with either my friend J or my dad, and for months whenever I met up to eat with either of them, we went somewhere else.  Eventually, I wound up at that restaurant with my friend and I decided to risk the bread.  It was good, but it wasn’t the wonderful ‘mystical’ experience it had been before. It was definitely better than run of the mill bread from some Italian chain that shall remain nameless, but it didn’t have that I-must-have-18-pieces attraction that it’d had before.  I ate it; I liked it; and that was the end of it.  I didn’t have cravings for it, and when I go back there, I might have one piece, but maybe not. The same thing happened when I went back to other foods that I previously thought I would never be able to turn down.  It’s like one of those perspective posters: up close it’s just a bunch of blobs, but when you get far enough away, you can see the image in it (it’s a unicorn!). When you get far enough away from whatever you are craving, you perceive it differently.  For some of us, once we get distance, the food seems to lose its ability to grab hold of us.  The trick to escaping this trap, though, is pretty much just to hang on and ride it out.

Finding your own Enemy Way

So now you’re back on the rez in friendly territory (you think) but there’s still that consistency stumbling block that keeps coming up.  It’s like that trick step on the staircase in Hogwarts that Harry was always getting caught in: you think it’s solid, until your foot sinks into it and you’re stuck! You’re ignoring the negative Iago voice telling you what a loser you are and you’re no longer craving the foods that take you off the rez, but now that you’ve been off, there’s the draw to go back.  It’s a little bit of the Iago voice telling you that you did it once before and it wasn’t the end of the road, but a bigger part of it is that you broke your routine and then everything was up in the air with the fallout and so now, you’re trying to get back into your pattern, but it’s not quite the same follow the numbers pattern it was before: you have to think about it a little more and that’s one of the ways that Iago gets back in.  You need to get back into your healthy ritual that served you so well before you went of the reservation. It’s a little like you need to find your own version of a Navajo Enemy Way ceremony.  This is a ritual that is performed for Navajos who literally journey out into Enemy territory; it’s to cleanse them of any negative residual spiritual effects of being out of Navajo territory (the Dinetah).  [Side note: I am a huge fan of the Leaphorn/ Chee/ Manuelito mysteries by Tony and Anne Hillerman.  Because the characters are Navajos, I’ve learned a lot about their culture.  It’s based on balance and harmony, kind of like Taoism. They are great books just for the mystery too- check them out!]

Once you get back into friendly territory- no more negative mindset, no more cravings (hopefully)- you need to have your own little ritual to put you in the ‘moving forward’ frame of mind to cleanse you of any going off the rez residual effects. This can be something as simple as putting in an extra workout to give your metabolism a boost or doing some meal planning (focusing on moving forward) and then going to the grocery store to get the supplies (execution of your plan).  Both of these give you the sense of accomplishment, making positive choices and actually moving forward.  It doesn’t have to be anything elaborate or fancy: the main thing is to do something! Once you start moving forward and are focused on that (rather than your latest foray into hostile territory), it’s harder for the consistency stumbling block to take you down, because you are literally a moving target.  It’s momentum and basic physics: stopping a 300 lb linebacker is easier when he’s dithering around on the line of scrimmage, but when he’s been running hard for the past 20 yards, GET OUT OF HIS WAY! You want to be like that linebacker in motion: moving too fast to stop!

So, to sum it all up, all of us go off the reservation occasionally.  When it happens, the first thing to watch for is the negative Iago voice telling you what a failure you are (it’s lying to you- again!) and the second thing is to be prepared for the cravings that usually come afterwards.  Once you get past those two traps, do something positive to help you keep your focus on moving forward and avoid falling back into old destructive habits. Another of my favorites quotes is from Margaret Thatcher: “you may have to fight a battle more than once to win it.” These kinds of battles we may have to fight for years to come, but the more we practice at winning them, the fewer and farther between they become!

 

Body Language: Eating Intuitively

About three months ago I read a great book called Always Hungry? by Dr. David Ludwig.  He proposes a weight loss plan based along the Mediterranean diet which sharply curtails refined carbs and eliminates cravings.  It’s a lot like the Paleo lifestyle I follow, and I thought he had a lot of great ideas but the one I thought was hardest for me personally was the idea of eating intuitively.  This is the idea that you eat when you’re hungry and stop eating when you’re satisfied (which is not necessarily “full”).  Geez!! How hard can that be?? Um,….. it’s harder than it sounds!

A lot of weight loss experts promote this idea because it’s the simplest and easiest way to make sure you are eating enough calories for your body’s activity level and it gets away from the whole “counting calories or macros” ideas.  There are a lot of “diet gurus” out there that still promote counting calories and moderating macros because even though people think it’s hard, it’s actually easier than listening to your body.  You enter your food into the calorie counter and it tallies up how many calories you have left to eat or how many carbs/ macro units you have left.  It’s usually way off but it gives people the reassurance (often false) that they are following their diet.

I’m going to go out on a limb here and say, while I religiously enter my food for each meal/ snack into My Fitness Pal and monitor both my calories and my macros, if I “go over” my calorie limit, I don’t freak out.  I look at the numbers as more of a ball park target, though I do try to keep my carbs on the lower side; when they got too low, it was really not-good.  I’d like to think I’m finally getting the hang of this eating intuitively process!

So what is “eating intuitively?” On the most basic level, it’s what I described up above: eating when you’re hungry and stopping when you are satisfied, but not necessarily “full.”  What makes it difficult is we (modern human beings) have gotten away from listening to our bodies.  I joke a lot with my friends that I wish I were more like my cockapoo, because he really isn’t interested in food.  As a rule, he gets a part of most of what I eat at home, provided it’s puppy-safe, but about half the time, he sniffs it and lets it sit there.  This includes chicken, lamb, beef, pork, real eggs (as opposed to egg substitutes to which he completely turns up his nose!), yogurt, cottage cheese, and so on! He leaves them on his plate until one of the cats shows an interest and even then, he may just let the cats eat it.  If he was just “saving it for later,” he’ll eat it, but most of the time, after a token woof, the cats eat it.  The only things he really eats right when I give it to him are fish and milk (half and half).  He’s just not hungry and so he doesn’t eat.  I joke that there are “starving dogs in China” but if he’s not hungry, he’s pretty much not eating! On the other hand, he loves his kibble and eats it regularly when we go to bed or get up in the morning, and he loves his peanut butter cookies (Trader Joe’s Peanut Butter dog biscuits), but he saves those until we go to bed and then chews on them a lot before eating them.  He’s very active and weighs about what he should (12 lbs).  Why am I going on about my dog? Because he eats intuitively!

We are trained from childhood that we are supposed to eat three times a day (at least): breakfast, lunch and dinner.  Snacks and desserts are optional, but the meals are pretty much a given.  There’s the stereotype of the child who isn’t hungry being made to sit at the table until his/ her plate is clean.  Even more than making us eat; we are supposed to “clean our plate” on top of that! So we are taught not only to eat when we are not hungry, but how much we are supposed to eat! If our body is saying it doesn’t need fuel, that we are not hungry, we are taught to ignore that!

We are also influenced by what is happening around us.  How many times have we been walking through a mall or driving down the road and we smell food: suddenly, we’re “hungry,” even if we just ate! We smell popcorn, donuts, Chinese food, and we suddenly want some. Someone in our office just warmed up their lunch and the whole office smells delicious- mmmm, I want lunch!! We walk into the theater and we weren’t hungry outside, but now the hot buttered (real butter!) popcorn smells so good- maybe just a small one, and oooh! peanut M&Ms!! So, our body isn’t hungry but our head is, and therein lies the crux of our dilemma: how to sort out who is saying what to you.

For example, my cubicle neighbor eats all day.  He’s a thin active young guy who starts the morning with toast and coffee and usually has lunch around 11:00-11:30.  I can smell his sourdough toast with butter and jam; I can hear him crunching away at it, and a couple hours later, I get to smell his usually-delicious lunch: soup, meat, vegetables, whatever.  So am I hungry because my body is running low on fuel or am I hungry because I smell his food?  I know for a fact that usually I get hungry according to the clock: about 10:30-ish, my stomach starts growling.  I usually have breakfast between 7-7:30 a.m., so it’s usually been about 3 hours since I ate.  Is that my body saying I need more fuel or is that because I’ve usually had coffee or tea by 10:30?  Is is snack memory or real hunger? Something similar usually happens around 4:00 p.m.  I get a little hungry and is that because I usually have more coffee or some nuts around that time or is it really hunger?

We (meaning I) have similar issues when it comes to knowing when we are satisfied. There is usually about a 20 minute lag between when the body realizes enough fuel has been ingested and when the brain gets the signal.  This is one of the reasons we feel “stuffed” after a meal: we’ve eaten until the brain gets the signal and by then, we’ve had too much (in may case, because I’ve eaten pretty fast!).  The weight loss experts tell us to pause during our meal to “check our hunger gauge” and let the brain catch up with the body.  Again, this is where the “clean your plate” catechism comes into play: we are programmed to eat it all even if it is way too much, as is normally the case in a restaurant setting!

So, not only have we been programmed to ignore our body’s signals about hunger, we have been programmed to eat everything in front of us.  How much more disconnected can we get from our body?  Is it any wonder that so many of us have weight issues? This is why I wish I were more like my cockapoo: he doesn’t have any questions about whether he’s hungry or not; whether it’s a treat or not; whether he likes it or not.  All of the issues that we (as intelligent -eye roll- human beings) have to deal with: it’s dinner time, so we have to eat; it’s a French silk chocolate gateau- so we have to eat it!; it’s kind of a stale run of the mill cookie, but, eh, I’m bored, so I’ll eat it! For my cockapoo, it’s easy- not hungry, not interested, not eating! End of story- throw the ball!! (Now if we’re going to discuss his addictions…….!!)

So now that we have defined the problem, how do we solve this? Admittedly, it’s a tough call. If this were a computer, it’d be easy: we wipe the drive and reinstall the operating systems! We’re a bit more complicated: we can’t really “wipe” our hard drives, so we have to do it the hard way.  We have to create new neural pathways; in humanspeak, we have to make new habits.  This is where so many of us fumble the ball. It takes consistency (which is hard enough) and we have to learn how to listen to our bodies again.  I admit, this is where I had such a problem trying to follow Dr. Ludwig’s advice.  I approached it as a three part problem: 1) Identifying if I am truly hungry; 2) Realizing when I’m satisfied (as opposed to feeling full); 3) Being consistent.

Over time, I came to realize that my “getting hungry” at regular times during the day is what I call “snack memory.”  I was used to eating a snack at those times of day, so my stomach let me know that it wasn’t getting the snack it was expecting (try that with my cockapoo! eye roll) So I learned to wait: if my hunger went away, then it was “snack memory” and if it didn’t, then my body was really telling me that it needed fuel.  Elizabeth Benton (PrimalPotential.com) suggests that we take some opportunities simply to “feel hungry.” People are afraid of being hungry and so they eat preemptively (her term) to avoid the hunger pangs.  This is actually something I am used to feeling, because at my old job, I usually had to eat when I could and a lot of times, that meant being hungry until around 3:00 p.m. when I could take a few minutes to eat something.  Now, I make myself wait.  If I’m still hungry around noon, which is about 4.5-5 hours after breakfast, then I have lunch.  The other thing I do is make sure I have plenty of water, since sometimes what we think is hunger, is really thirst, so drinking something (not coffee with lots of creamer!) can alleviate those fake hunger pangs.  So, Elizabeth has a great idea, since if you’ve never let yourself feel what hunger really feels like, take a few minutes to get back in touch with your body’s signals.  “This is what it really feels like to be hungry as opposed to just wanting something to eat.”

The other thing that I had to get back in touch with is satisfaction.  When have I had enough to eat without getting “full?”  This meant I had to eat more slowly, which was more of a struggle than I really wanted to admit.  My life used to be a lot more hectic than it is now, and I got used to gulping my food down as fast as I could because I only had a short lunch period at work and I got home late so it was usually about 8 p.m or later when I had dinner, so gulp that down and get on to whatever else needs to be done.  So taking time to eat slowly was another thing I had to reprogram. Weight loss experts suggest that in addition to chewing your food slowly, you take a brief pause about halfway through your meal and check your hunger gauge.  This will take some time to learn, because most of us don’t really acknowledge that until we feel “stuffed.”  For most of us, the gauge has two settings: Empty and Overfull.  So we need to learn the settings in between.  When we take a pause, feel your hunger and learn from there.  Am I mostly full?  Has the hungry feeling gone away?  You will probably miss the mark the first few times out (I know I did!).  Eventually, you will come to realize “this is what satisfied feels like” and don’t forget there’s a bit of lag time between your stomach sending the “done” message and the brain actually getting it, so if you leave the table feeling you’ve not eaten enough, wait a while and your brain will probably tell you that you really are  satisfied. The key for me was realizing that an hour later, I was not feeling hungry! If you’re having trouble with this one, that is what worked for me!

The last issue is of course consistency.  You have to learn new habits until they just become a part of your normal routine, and this doesn’t mean that you have to follow some kind of elaborate pattern every day and with every meal.  Eventually, your brain will just learn the new signals and you’ll do this without even thinking about it.  When you leave for work every morning, you don’t consciously think about everything that’s involved with going out and starting the car: your brain tells you to grab your keys, unlock the door, sit down, put the key in the ignition and turn it.  It takes me more time to type that out than it does for you to do it, and that’s how it will eventually go in your brain.  You’ll smell something delicious and even though your stomach will growl “mmmm, pizza!,” your brain will acknowledge, “yeah the pizza smells good, but you aren’t hungry!” and after a while, your stomach will stop growling.  You’ll eat dinner and after a certain amount of food, your brain will say “stop eating,” and you’ll just push the plate away without really stopping to wonder “am I full?” It’s like learning any other skill: it takes some practice until it’s natural.  This is where we have to learn to let go of the rote programming we have followed for most of our lives.  For most of us, it hasn’t gotten us anywhere great with our weight.  Our body knows what it needs and we just have to learn to hear it again. The hard part is quieting down all the other noise in our heads telling us to follow the old programming, but it’s not about habit and the clock or whether it’s a treat or not- it’s about whether you are really hungry or not-end of story.  I like to think of it as getting in touch with my inner cockapoo- now throw the ball, dammit!!

How Fabulous is Being Fat? Not Much!

(Originally posted on my blog on My Fitness Pal on 6/9/2016. Updated 7/7/2016)

I’ve been a little curious about the show My Big Fat Fabulous Life, and recently I got a chance to watch some episodes.  For those of you not addicted to TLC, Whitney Thore is 31, about 364-378 lbs (currently), has PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome) and is a dance teacher and radio show intern.  She made a big splash on social media by originally posting a pic of herself with a bare stomach.  The idea she had was “no body shaming.”  She was tired of people making comments about how big she was/ is and in general, people being made to feel ashamed about how their body looks, big or otherwise.  Having been the victim of fat shaming (from family and strangers), I totally agree with her premise.  It’s no one else’s business what you look like or how you choose to live your life. (Since she’s putting herself of tv, she’s inviting people to comment now!)

That said, I’m probably going to be completely politically incorrect and say that I really don’t think she’s having a “fabulous life.” I’m glad that she’s not ashamed of being 378 lbs; that she loves her job teaching dance to other “big girls”; that she’s got a boyfriend she loves who is crazy about her; and that she is such a force for her “no body shaming” message.  However, just from the episodes I’ve seen so far, she was scared to death about being diagnosed as pre-diabetic and afraid of her A1c going up into the diabetic range; she was nervous on the plane about someone getting assigned to the seat next to her and possibly having to buy a second ticket; she was also not comfortable on the tour bus with the narrow staircase to the upper level and their small seats; and she was very concerned about her ability to last through the four hour dance-a-thon she herself organized and eventually collapsed at the event.  She also threw out her back and is having ongoing problems with it.  Her friend who spoke to her just before her collapse at the dance-a-thon commented to the camera about how Whitney always hurts: her back, her knees, her feet and legs. Her other friends and family, as well as Whitney herself, are becoming increasingly concerned about her increasing health issues.

I am not at all surprised about Whitney’s fears and concerns.  When she was initially diagnosed as pre-diabetic, her weight was 378.  I spent A LOT of time in the upper 300’s before finally tipping over into the 400 lb range.  (My highest weight was 438.) I know what it’s like to be busy at the 360-380 range.  Like Whitney, my knees hurt, my feet hurt, my back hurt.  I was out of breath a lot.  Sitting on a bus or a plane or in any plastic molded chair designed for the general public was never comfortable.  I remember in college, I had to use the fold-down desk top on the seat next me because the one on my desk hit my belly and it wouldn’t lie flat enough for me to use it!! (eye roll) Talk about embarrassing!! (scream face)  I remember my doctor basically writing me off because I was so overweight and even though I’d lose a few pounds (sometimes as much as 40), it never lasted and seriously, what’s 40 lbs when I’m still 390-ish?

I remember going to Disneyland at about 390 and being unable to enjoy myself much because it hurt to walk practically anywhere.  Getting on and off of rides was embarrassingly challenging.  I spent more time being concerned about being able to do it without hurting myself or having the operators hold everything up so the “fat woman” can get on (eye roll again).  It was most definitely NOT fun and not at all fabulous (crushed face).

I had a job I loved at the time, and there were guys who were interested.  I was about as active as I could be at that weight and I thought I was pretty much enjoying my life, except for the fact that my feet hurt, my back hurt, my knees hurt, I had some minor medical issues and there were public places that were awkward for me.  In retrospect, it was not very fun or fabulous or enjoyable. At times like this I remember the story of the two donkeys tied at a hitching post: one is a town donkey with just a saddle on his back and the other is a prospector’s pack animal, piled high with all of the prospector’s equipment and camping gear.  The town donkey says to the other: “that’s quite a load you’ve got there,” and the prospector’s donkey says: “what load?”  

I think this is where Whitney is: she is so used to living her life being overweight  that she does not realize what that burden truly entails. Whitney herself says she likes being “fat” (her words). If you’ve always been overweight, you don’t know what it’s like to NOT be overweight.  It’s one of those idiotic tag-lines you hear from  “weight loss professionals” (a rude & stupid bariatric surgeon actually said it to me): “nothing tastes as good as being thin feels.”  Really?  How does “being thin” feel, since I’ve never experienced it?? (flipping him the bird here!!) Whitney loves her life and a lot of great things are happening to her, but as her friends point out, she talks about getting healthier and not a lot of change is happening.  How happy can she be if she is terrified of becoming diabetic?? If going places and fitting into plane and bus seats is a constant issue?? If the pain in her back is causing her to miss out on things she loves, like dancing?? One of her issues causing her problems with her weight is PCOS.  It makes it extremely difficult to lose weight. But she can make progress (as she did) with diet and exercise.  I don’t want to fall into my mom’s trap of saying: “you’re so pretty but you’d be a lot prettier if you lost weight” (I heard that until there was blood running out of my ears- scream face).  I think Whitney is a wonderfully positive, dynamic and confident young woman, but I think by convincing herself that she is happy being so obese is a lie she has come to believe.  She has accepted being overweight and is no longer trying to change that fact.  I know this because I have been there myself.  Like Whitney, I tried losing weight and put it back on, and after failing many many times, I just accepted the fact that I was “destined to be the fat woman.”  I would hate to see her stuck there, since it is a miserable place to be once you get some distance from it.  I’m not saying everyone has to be a size 2 or a size 6, but there is an advantage to being healthier.  

I am still a large woman.  I’ve lost 155 lbs and I still weigh almost 300 lbs.  People looking at me don’t see someone who has essentially lost the equivalent of a grown adult; they see a fat woman- a 300 pounder!! Frankly, what they see and what they think doesn’t matter a whole lot to me, because I know that I physically feel so much better!! My feet don’t hurt; my back and knees hurt much less (despite the arthritis) and I can be so much more active.  I spent Memorial Day weekend walking all over the Queen Mary and getting into tight spaces I never could have at 400 lbs.  My life right now is on the road to being fabulous, and I’m so NOT a size 6 (or anywhere close!!).

I hope that Whitney can make the changes she needs to be healthier, even if she never gets to be a size 6 either.  It’s not about being “fat” or being a “big girl; it’s about being healthy enough to do the things you love, like dancing and riding a bike.  It’s about making great food and exercise choices so you’re not always scared to go to the doctor because you might be diabetic.  It’s about being able to go where you want without being afraid that you physically “don’t fit” and most importantly, it’s about not being in pain from walking around all day.  She can be such a dynamic and positive face for her message, but I think she do a lot more if she accepted a bigger challenge than being overweight; she needs to take on the challenge to be healthier, because a woman like her could knock it out of the park if she put her mind to it.  She really can be fabulous and be big and be healthier.  I hope she steps up and makes the decision to do it.  

Etched In Stone: Sustainable Lifestyle Changes

“I don’t work hard for temporary”~ Elizabeth Benton

Unfortunately, that’s what a lot of us do when we try to lose weight.  We do something extreme that we saw on tv or online, wherever the newest weight loss “edge” came from, and usually we are so thrilled to see we are losing weight, but then it starts to get hard.  It gets hard because we have to drink “superfood shakes” twice a day and have chicken and broccoli for dinner each night.  Believe me, doing that will make you lose weight (even if you’re not throwing up the shakes later- ugh!). Buuuuut- and we all know that was coming!- a week or so into this “superfood” diet, you really start hating the thought of choking down another protein shake, and the steamed chicken breast is giving you the dry heaves.  When foods you hate start sounding/ smelling good, you know this extreme eating plan isn’t workable long term.

This is why it took me a lifetime to learn to lose weight.  I confess, I haven’t done a lot of yo-yo dieting, because (as my friend says when confronting her own habits) “hello! I’ve met me!” My mom was always buying me diet books and diet programs and exercise equipment.  I usually stuck them somewhere on a shelf or the garage and left them there to collect dust.  It wasn’t that I wanted to stay unhealthy and out of shape; it was that after flipping through the table of contents and first few pages, I knew that it was something I wasn’t going to do.  “Week 1: Shakes for breakfast and shakes for lunch; healthy 400 cal dinner; Week 2: Shakes for breakfast; kale salad for lunch; healthy 400 cal dinner; etc” Yeah, right! I hate protein shakes; they seriously make me gag and feel nauseated.  Secondly, I really don’t like kale at all.  If I want to chew on a bush, there are other bushes I’d eat first.  Yuck! Also, I am not going to get up in the morning and blend me a shake.  I am so not a morning person: getting up, dressed and out the door is about the limit of my morning activity, at least until I get some caffeine in the blood.  And any kind of diet that requires me to eat “special foods” according to some weekly schedule is not going to work for me. The same with following a series of changing weekly workout schedules.  I’d get two or three weeks into either of those programs and then get really tired and irritated with it.  Nope! I’ve met me, and those are not me!

You would think my mom would have figured it out over the years, and her biggest concession was asking me beforehand if I wanted her to buy me the book/ program/ whatever, and I’d tell her no thanks, only to come home and find it on my doorstep.  (eye roll) One more for the shelf.  Even when I did try a weight loss program (I tried Nutra System), and even when it worked for me (eating their pre-packaged foods), I was still wondering how they were supposed to “transition” me from their stuff to real life foods.  They said they had a program in place, but I stopped before I got there because it was simply too expensive.  The food was not bad for pre-packaged diet food, but it wasn’t teaching me anything. If all I planned on doing for the rest of my life was eating pre-packaged diet food, I can do that at the local grocery store.

The bottom line was that I knew I had to do something, but it had to be something I could stick with and live with for the rest of my life without hating what I was eating.  This is where shows like “The Biggest Loser” really screw it up.  The contestants can’t be expected to live on starvation rations while exercising 8 hours a day for the rest of their lives.  Eventually, they have to go back to living like normal people and the show does not prepare them for that.  It teaches them nothing about how to make sustainable lifestyle changes. I realized that unless I make my changes permanent, any weight loss is not going to be permanent.  I’m with Elizabeth: I don’t work hard for temporary either!

That’s why before I chose to follow a Paleo eating plan, I actually researched it.  I read about it, looked it up online and asked some questions from some of my fitness friends.  What did they think about it? How does it work for them? What are some criticisms about it?  Then, I did something very important that a lot of people don’t do before they start a new diet/ weight loss program: is this something I can do for the rest of my life?  Believe me, it was a very serious question, because I was asking myself if I was ready to give up simple carbs long term: things like bread, pasta, crackers, white potatoes, cereals, rice- essentially, all the foods that made up about 75-80% of my diet (really! not kidding here!) It was that big a change for me.  Noodles were a major staple of my regular eating plan! So it was a serious question, and after giving it some thought, I started making changes in small, doable increments.  When I ran out of macaroni & cheese, I didn’t buy anymore and bought something clean instead.  When I ran out of bread, I replaced it with a whole food that I knew I would eat (mostly broccoli- a lot of broccoli- I’m surprised I haven’t turned green!) I kept making the changes in stages so it wasn’t overwhelming and I would have a chance to get used to them before I went on to the next stage.  It also gave me time to evaluate how this new lifestyle change was working for me.  Was I happy? Was I miserable? Was it too hard?  These are things I kept asking myself.

And something surprising happened: I lost weight! I’m not going to lie and say it was a walk in the park, because there were days I’d just be dying to have any kind of bread or crackers or simple carbohydrate.  I’d crave pasta, candy, bread, chips! I’d go to lunch with my family, have the salad bar with a big plate of veggies and protein and then stare a hole through the bread basket! Yeah, what was on my plate was yummy and good for me, but what I wanted was yummy and bad for me.  It wasn’t that I was going to die if I ate the bread, but it was a simple choice: eating the bread was not going to help me lose weight.  It wasn’t the end of the line, but it sure wasn’t helpful! So, I’d pass on the bread (although I pretty much had to staple my hands to my pockets!)

And then another surprising thing happened: the cravings went away! After not eating simple carbs for several weeks, I stopped wanting them.  I’d go out to the same restaurants and there would be the bread basket (the one with the hole in it- lol) and it’d just be in the way.  I’d ask if anyone wanted the bread, and if the answer was no, I’d ask the waitress to take it away (or I’d take it home for my dog, who eventually stopped eating it too, so I stopped taking it home).  I’d walk through the chips/ crackers aisle in the grocery store and not even be tempted.  I’d pass on things that I never thought I could say no to and I didn’t miss them. On a few occasions, I’d “treat” myself, only to find it wasn’t really a treat anymore, because it didn’t taste so yummy now.

That’s when I realized that I could actually lose weight, eating healthy stuff I like without being utterly miserable, and what a shock that was! And this is phenomenon is not unique to me- when you make the changes that work for you, you make long term progress.  Not only do you lose weight, but you become a healthier person overall. Other things that I never anticipated started happening- like sleeping through the night, like not being tired all the time, like being able to walk without pain, even my mood improved because I wasn’t tired and in pain and feeling generally lousy all day.  But the key is making changes that work for you.

As these changes become your new routine, they get easier to do and it gets easier to say no to the foods and behaviors that used to sabotage your healthy eating plan.  You put the salad on your grocery list because that’s what you normally have instead of the box of noodley stuff.  You ignore the cookies in the break room because last time you ate one, it tasted pretty stale and way too sweet. You grab your gym bag on Mondays because that’s the day you hit the water aerobics class on the way home from work.  It’s normal and even better, it’s fun! Not only are the long term benefits from this new healthy routine a far better payoff than your old lifestyle, but it’s becoming effortless! There is no payoff to going back to the “old way,” because it may have been “cheap and convenient” to eat a lot of fast food and simple carbs, but the aches and pains and tight clothes and huffing and puffing were sure as hell not convenient!

We all want the awesome payoff, but we trip ourselves up by wanting it NOW.  This is part of “convenience oriented” society.  We want instant gratification instantly! However real sustainable progress takes time and while being patient feels like it’s unbearable, we do start to see encouraging changes in a few weeks.  Even more encouraging is that these positive changes are PERMANENT! Because you keep going forward with your sustainable changes, you know that those ten pounds that came off are gone for good! Bit by bit, the weight comes off, the health returns, and it becomes the permanent condition. It’s like Michelangelo said: “I saw the angel in the marble and I carved until I set him free.”